Almost Paradise by Olivia Cunning

  Chapter One

  Eric paused in the formal dining room’s doorway and gazed at the adorable woman sitting in one of twelve matching Elizabethan high-backed chairs surrounding the highly polished mahogany table. Her blond and purple hair was mussed from sleep, and one bare leg was tucked up into the tattered, baggy recesses of a faded UCLA sweatshirt, but she fit there. In his home. In his life. She fit. She was his everything. His Rebekah.

  Unable to resist her allure for another moment, Eric approached her chair and leaned over the back. He slid his palms over Rebekah’s lower belly, pressed his cheek against her head, and closed his eyes, taking a moment to inhale her scent and bask in her warmth—she was so alive beneath his hands, so vibrant. Days ago when she’d thought her cancer had come back, Eric had thought he might lose her. And though they’d said forever vows soon after their fears had been vanquished, he still had a hard time grasping that this perfect woman was his, that he’d found someone to love and to love him. Later today they were going to the tattoo parlor to get additional vows etched into their skin. Not that he’d ever forget what he’d pledged in her church before her family and his friends. He’d meant every word. He knew millions of men had recited those same words to their special woman, but Eric would honor Rebekah, love her, cherish her, in sickness if it came to that and in health for as long as he lived. The vows they were getting tattooed as part of sleeves from shoulder to wrist were unique, but the ones he’d spoken were just as heartfelt, no matter how canned they’d become over the years.

  “Breakfast is ready,” he murmured, remembering why he’d sought her company in the first place.

  “What did you put in my scrambled eggs this time?” she asked, craning her neck to look at him. A spark of mischief danced in her pretty blue eyes and a grin teased the corner of her mouth.

  “Anise and paprika.”

  She bit her lip. “Can’t even imagine what that’s going to taste like.”

  But he knew she’d try them. It touched him that she’d risk her taste buds to make him happy. Not even Jace—the most amenable of his bandmates—would sample Eric’s culinary experiments.

  The laptop Rebekah had been using clicked shut, and she covered the backs of his hands with her palms to press them into more firmly into her belly.

  He shifted his gaze to stare at the lid of the computer, wondering why she’d hidden what she was doing. “Watching a little porn this morning?”

  “Who needs porn when married to you?” She laughed when his hands moved up her body to cup her breasts. “Case in point.”

  “If you weren’t so damned irresistible, I might be able to keep my hands off you. Or get through at least part of my day without a stiffy.”

  “Those stiffies only make me want to be more irresistible to you,” she said and slid her hands up his arms.

  “Not possible.” He turned his head to kiss her temple, but the idea that she might be hiding something from him wouldn’t leave his thoughts. “So what were you doing on my computer?”

  “You’re not going to be one of those husbands who checks my browsing history and secretly reads my emails, are you?”

  Maybe. “You wouldn’t like that?”

  “Would you like it?”

  He shrugged. “I don’t have anything to hide.” Did she?

  “I happen to be planning a big surprise for you,” she said, “and I’d appreciate that it stay a surprise. So no peeking.”

  Eric’s heart skipped a beat. He remembered the last time Rebekah had surprised him. She’d made his birthday one of the most special days of his life, topped only by the first time they’d had sex and by his wedding day. It wasn’t a coincidence that all the favorite days of his life centered on Rebekah. She was his everything.

  He grinned and lifted his eyebrows at her. “A surprise?”

  “Well, less of one now since I had to say something to keep you from snooping.” She elbowed him in the ribs.

  He released her to rub at his side, and she slipped from her chair, scooping the laptop off the table and holding it securely to her chest.

  “I wouldn’t have snooped.” Maybe. “So what kind of surprise?”

  “A honeymoon surprise.” She offered him a mischievous smile and practically skipped into the kitchen toward the plate of eggs on the counter.

  Honeymoon? Hell, yeah. He liked the sound of that. That would involve lots of sex and cocktails on the beach and more sex. He trailed after her. “So where are we going? Aruba? Jamaica?”

  Her laugh interrupted him. “We’re not going to Kokomo.”

  He brightened as another paradise occurred to him. “Hawaii?”

  “No. No tropical islands.”

  He scrunched one brow at her. “Then where?”

  “Maine.” She beamed as if it were her dream vacation destination.

  “Maine? The state?” His tone was almost as flat as his interest in going to Maine.

  “Eventually. We’ll start here and drive across the entire United States to Bangor.”

  He shook his head in confusion. “What’s in Bangor?”

  “Aw, come on—you don’t want to bang her in Bangor?” She shimmied her shoulders and winked at him.

  He snorted. This was why he married her. Well, her twisted sense of humor was one of thousands of reasons. “Of course I want to bang her—er, you—in Bangor. I want to bang you in every town on the planet. But you don’t seriously want to drive that far, do you? We’re on the road constantly when we tour with the band. Aren’t you sick of it?”

  “I love traveling with Sinners, but we never get to see anything when we’re on the road. We’re too busy working. There are a whole lot of stops I want to make between here and there that we’d never get to see while we’re on tour. I’ve been marking them on my super-secret map.”

  “It’s winter up there right now,” Eric said. As far as he was concerned, Maine in December was not for thin-blooded southern Californians such as himself.

  “Exactly! Don’t you want to do donuts in the snow with the top down?”

  Drive his classic Corvette in the snow? Uh, he was thinking no. “I’d rather eat donuts in the sand with your top down.”

  The excited smile dropped from her face. “Fine. If you don’t like my surprise, forget it.”

  His heart sank. Disappointing her crushed him. He took the laptop from her hands and set it on the kitchen counter before wrapping her in his arms. “We’ll go anywhere you want to go,” he said, pressing a kiss to her head. “I can’t wait to see where you take me.”

  She snuggled into his chest and tightened her arms around his waist. “Too easy,” she said with a giggle.

  Somehow, Eric felt he’d been had.

  Chapter Two

  Rebekah eyed the tattoo needle with trepidation. She remembered well the pain she’d experienced with her first tattoo. Eric’s name and a musical score with the melody he’d written just for her had been etched on her lower back less than a month before. The pain hadn’t been unbearable, but this—this was her entire arm they were talking about here. Even the tender underside.

  “You sure about this?” the tattoo artist, Butch, asked.

  He’d done most of Eric’s tattoo work here in the basement studio called The Ink Well. The talented artist had also inked Rebekah’s first and only tattoo, so it wasn’t that she didn’t trust him to rock the shit out of this design. She just didn’t know if she could tolerate that deep scratchy feeling for however long it would take to tattoo her entire arm.

  “You look a little green.”

  “It’s a lot of area to cover.” She studied his work station and swallowed hard against the knot in her throat. “With a needle.”

  “That’s why we’ll do it in stages.”

  She blew out a lengthy breath. “Stages?”

  “You didn’t think he was going to do the entire sleeve in one day, did you?” Eric asked, leaning over Butch’s shoulder and shaking his head at her.

  “I’m kind of new to this,” Rebekah said defensively. “You’re just having stuff added to the tattoos already on your arm, so don’t have as much to endure. I’m starting from scratch.”

  “Blank canvas,” Butch said with a smile. “Soon to be a work of art. But it will take weeks to complete the entire thing. I don’t want you to black out in my chair.”

  “Are you going to do all the outlines and words today?” Eric said, taking Rebekah’s hand and turning her arm so he could see the complex stencil covering her skin from shoulder to elbow. “The words she wrote about me.”

  She’d put a lot of thought into the things she wanted included in the design and while the words were the focus of the piece, the surrounding objects all meant something to her. Butch had worked everything she’d requested into a design both cohesive and uniquely her. She loved it.

  “That’s the plan,” Butch said. “You sure you want a Camaro to take up half of your upper arm? I’m a Mopar man myself.”

  She grinned. “I’m sure. Chevy all the way!”

  For their first car restoration, she and Eric had finished his ’68 Corvette together, and she’d thought about having the little green convertible tattooed on her arm, but he’d started restoring the ’Vette on his own. The Camaro had been the first project they’d done entirely together, and it had made them grow closer as friends and as a couple. That car meant a lot to her. It always would.

  “I don’t think she’ll notice if I make this a Challenger or a Dart instead, do you?” Butch asked Eric, grasping her arm in one hand and using his other to dip his tattoo gun in black ink.

  “She’d notice,” Eric said. “The woman knows her cars. It’s why I married her.”

  “That’s why you married me?” Rebekah asked, glad Eric was there to distract her as the tattoo process began. The hum of the gun so close to her ear was a little unnerving. She focused on Eric’s bright blue eyes instead of the prickling sensation on her shoulder.

  “One of the reasons,” he said, tapping the tip of her nose with his index finger. “You’re also adorable.”

  “Glad you think so.” She remembered a time when his referring to her as adorable had pissed her off, but now she found it endearing.

  Butch grinned at their exchange. “Never thought this guy would find his perfect match. If there’s someone in the world for Eric Sticks, there’s hope for all of us.”

  “Hey!” Eric said, scowling. “That sounded like an insult.”

  “Then again maybe Rebekah is just settling.” Butch shrugged and turned Rebekah’s arm slightly so he could continue the outline of a peacock feather around to the back. She peeked down at his progress and noticed he wasn’t tracing the entire stencil design with his tattoo needle, just hitting highlights. She figured he’d use varying colors on the rest of the feather to make it look more realistic. She might get through today’s session without fainting after all. Sweet.

  “Settling?” Eric said, crossing his arms over his chest. “Is that a fact?”

  Rebekah grinned, knowing Butch was teasing Eric, but also knowing that Eric got his feelings hurt far more easily than he let on. “There’s nothing settling about you, baby,” she assured him. “You give me butterflies every time I look at you.”

  Eric’s chin went up a notch.

  “Are you sure it isn’t indigestion?” Butch turned her arm the other way.

  She laughed and then sucked in a pained breath as the needle found a particularly sensitive nerve ending.

  Eric shifted to stand at her side and took her free hand. “You okay?”

  “I’m fine.” She squeezed his hand reassuringly, but was soon clinging to his fingers. “Ow.”

  “There’s a lot of black on the words,” Butch said. “Do you need a break?”

  “Keep going,” she said. Would the words mean more if they hurt like hell as they were made a permanent part of her skin?

  The lettering was worked throughout the entire design: not just a string of neatly spaced words written on a ribbon. The unique set of characters blended seamlessly with the details of the artwork.

  I am yours, dear Eric

  heart, body, and soul.

  Take all that I am

  and make me more,

  because with you at my side,

  I am not only complete

  but transcendent

  As she sat there gritting her teeth in pain, Rebekah understood why people usually chose less verbose messages such as I ♥ Eric when wearing their hearts on their sleeve-tattoos.

  Eric leaned close to her ear and whispered, “Watching you get tattooed is such a turn-on.”

  “We’re just getting started,” Rebekah said.

  “I know,” he said. “I probably should have gone first this time. You’re so fucking hot.”

  “Eric.” She shook her head at him. “Do you really find everything erotic?”

  “When it comes to you.”

  Eric nibbled her earlobe, and pleasure snaked down her neck and the arm not experiencing pain. She shuddered as her brain somehow began to associate the needle with sexual stimulation.

  “Hey, don’t move,” Butch warned.

  “Sorry,” Rebekah said, and then pressed a hand against Eric’s chest. “You’re going to have to sit over there.” She nodded to a nearby chair. “Now is not the time to get me all hot and bothered.”

  “Couldn’t agree with you less,” Eric said in her ear, but he drew away, the back of his fingers brushing the suddenly erect tip of her nipple. She squirmed when her pussy swelled with sudden—and completely inappropriate—longing.

  Having him sit several feet away did nothing to cool her sudden lust. He was watching her the same way he watched her when she masturbated for him. As if she were his sex goddess and he worshiped every inch of her from afar. As if watching her get off was far more exciting than getting off himself. Now every time the needle scraped her skin, she could feel it in her clit—a tiny zap of intense pleasure pulsing just beneath the surface. Within moments she was covered in a sheen of perspiration.

  “You doing okay?” Butch said. “You’re sweating.”

  “Don’t stop,” she said, drawing a wicked smile from her naughty husband.

  “Ever had a woman climax in your chair, Butch?” Eric asked.

  “A few times. Usually when I’m working on an upper thigh.”

  “How about when you’re tattooing vows on a woman’s arm?”

  Butch paused in his work and looked at Rebekah, who felt the heat of embarrassment rise up her throat.

  “Are you turned on by this?” he asked her.

  “I wasn’t,” Rebekah said. “But the way he’s watching me…” She scowled at Eric, but she didn’t want him to stop looking at her like that. She wanted him to always look at her like he could devour her at any moment.

  “I’ll make him leave if he’s bothering you,” Butch said.

  Rebekah shook her head. “I need him here.”

  No man had ever stared at her the way Eric did, and now she was addicted to it. To him. To the way he made her feel and how he made her laugh. She loved knowing that he was there for her and trusted that he always would be.

  When the needle began to scrape out a design near her elbow, she felt the tiny pain as pleasure in the tips of her breasts. God, she wished she was alone with her husband so she could go topless. She wanted to tear her shirt open and expose her aching tits to Eric so he could see how hard her nipples were, see how much she needed him to touch them, to suck them.

  His gaze locked with hers, Eric licked his lips as if he could read her thoughts. She bit her bottom lip so she wouldn’t moan aloud.

  The needle moved to her forearm, which gave her a moment to co
llect her thoughts, but when the tip scraped over the tender inner surface of her lower arm, her belly quivered. The closer the ink gun moved to her wrist, the tighter her belly clenched, until an unbearable ache began to build deep in her pussy.

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